Hanal Pixan: Mayan day of the dead

The  “Hanal pixán”, or food for the spirits, is a Mayan tradition that takes place to remember friends and family that left on the eternal trip in a very special way.

It is a special event for the relatives of the deceased, because they know that in these days, from October 31st to November 2nd, the spirits “get permission” to visit their relatives.  However, the celebration begins way before that, with the embroidering of the tablecloths used on the tables,  the making of the clay pots, and the wax candles.  Besides, on these days, people do a deep cleaning in houses and patios, stone walls are painted, all this with the intention that the spirits that come those days won’t have to do it.
It is also used to go to bed early the day before, so as  not to bother the spirits that are arriving.

The first day is dedicated to deceased children, and they call it  U HANAL PALAL.   The second day is dedicated to deceased adults and they call it  U HANAL NUCUCH UINICOOB, and the third day is the U HANAL PIXANOOB, called in some places “pixan mass” because on that day there is a mass dedicated to all spirits, it usually takes place in the public cemetery.

The tradition includes several rites, the main one consists in setting a table that works as an altar, lightened with wax candles, located under the patio trees, and close to the relatives tombs, where typical food is left for the spirits:  fresh atole, pibes or mucbipollos, jicamas, tangerines, oranges, xec (mix made with oranges, tangerines, jicamas, and other fruits as well as ground chile),  papaya, coconut and seeds sweets, x’pelón tamales, vaporcitos, balché (intoxicating drink made from the bark of the balché tree), sweet bread and bowls of delicious tan-chucuá (atole made with corn, cacao, pepper and anis). All these decorated with candles, Ruda branches, and photographs of the deceased.

The day dedicated to the children, the altar is decorated with a tablecloth embroidered with lively colors, where, in addition to the food, they set up sweets and toys, and decorate the altar with xpujuc flowers (wild yellow type), red xtes, and virginia flowers.

These foods remain all night on November 1st and 2nd on these small altars under the trees.  And when the souls of the deceased “haven taken grace”, their relatives eat the mucbipollos and the pibinales, and drink the atole and the balché.

A week later, the bix, or eighth, takes place (“ochovario”, a reunion or party that takes place eight days after an event) it is kind of the repetition of the event, but a smaller version of it.  At night on these days, on the doors and stone walls a line of candles is lighted to show the spirits the way out.

Come and see more of this tradition in  Zapote Ecopark, on “Ruta de los Cenotes”  from October 31st to November 2nd.

You can also enjoy it at Jardín Botánico Dr. Alfredo Barrea Marín.

Photos: Xanal Pixán Zapote Eco Park

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